where trouble was needed

July 8, 2008

Telling stories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 12:12 pm

While discussing children’s books, what is available in India, US, UK, etc, I thought more about oral storytelling.

Even in the US there are oral storytelling traditions.  I remember taking a course on oral storytelling in library school, and attending a conference on the same.  There are some incredible stories out there.  Never the same twice.  We saw mesmerising storytellers in the Narmada Valley.  And lots of nearly unrehearsed drama too. In Madduvalasa reservoir affected villages we got to see all-night storytelling performances, by people who just travel from village to village doing this for a living.  They interrupt the story to read out “dedications” passed to them along wtih Rs. 5-10 notes. Unfortunately, when these villages are submerged and ppl living in relief camps, they won’t be able to support this kind of entertainment.  And those who make it in the city will just have a TV anyway.  And in India library school focusses on databases.  Not on oral storytelling.

I have great respect for oral storytelling.  After becoming a parent I was forced to practice what I respect.  To be honest my dear husband is far better at this than I am.  But dear child’s appetite for story is practically insatiable so I have to spin out the tales as well.  When my own imagination ran dry (as it quickly did) I would read aloud from books, which is actually one of my favourite things to do.  Now with her longer attention span, we are reading aloud from chapter books.  This is really a big help because they are lighter weight and last for more hours.

And hours.  Recently on a road trip we borrowed books + tape from the library.  These were all picture book and “I Can Read” books – each lasts 15 – 20 minutes.  I cannot read in a moving car so we pressed these into service and they were wonderful.  It got me ambitious and I found audio books that lasted longer – chapter books read aloud. Though there are fewer, and mostly for age 10+, we managed to find a few.

But they didn’t please the crowd nearly as well as we hoped.  Here I thought, wow, bestime will become so easy.  Just pop in the audio book and drift off to sleep.  There were however two problems with this.

1) Whether listening to a live story or an audio book, dear child never drifts off to sleep.  She is alert until the final word of the story.  Often we fall asleep telling the story and our words start getting a little garbled the way dreams shift suddenly.  She immediately wakes us up – what tomatoes?  she will ask, since till then the story was about spaceships, or something like that.

2) She prefers that we read aloud than pop the tapes.  But these are professional actors!  I protest.  Nope.  Doesn’t matter.  The live presence, the little voice inflections that come from having your listener cuddled up next to you … somehow it is worth more than the skills of the professionals.  While touching, it still means that I have to stay awake and read aloud.

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